August 2010

Professor Jim Leary Selected for Distinguished Life Sciences Scientist Award
Jim Leary, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and SVM Professor of Nanomedicine has been selected to receive the Distinguished Life Sciences Scientist Award from the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and the U.S Chamber of Commerce.


As the national winner of the 2010 Chairmen's Distinguished Life Sciences Scientist Award Dr. Leary will receive a cash award for expenses related to his nanomedicine research. One award is given each year in a national competition based on creative and cutting edge science. Several esteemed colleagues in the field of nanomedicine recommended Dr. Leary for this honor.

Dr. Leary's research involves designing "next-generation", advanced nanodelivery systems for drugs and genes to combat cancer and other diseases. He has invented a variety of new nanomedical devices with targeting molecules that deliver therapeutic drugs precisely to diseased cells to perform single cell "nanosurgery", which eliminate the diseased cells while trying to preserve nearby normal cells, allowing for much smaller drug doses and fewer side effects.

Professor Leary was flown to Washington, D.C. to participate in day-long activities and a dinner, followed by his participation in a panel, presentation of the award during a ceremony, and a return to the Purdue campus.



Opportunities Abound in Weldon Undergraduate Program
After graduating four classes and welcoming the seventh class later this month, the Weldon School finds itself near capacity and growing programmatically. Upon their return, students will find a few changes to the program, including co-op opportunities, more engagement with alumni, a developing study abroad exchange, and a new format for Senior Design.

Currently, two-thirds of Weldon Undergraduates have industry and three-fourths have research experience at graduation.  "Upon the program's inception, it was obvious that industrial experience was integral for success. The Weldon School undergraduate program has always included internships. The program has matured, and now we can offer our students co-op opportunities as well," Maeve Drummond, the Weldon Undergraduate program coordinator says.

"Last summer, Ethicon Endo-Surgery and Eli Lilly hired the first Weldon co-ops. We learned how to best manage a co-op schedule with the rigorous Weldon program. It was such a success for the students, we started spreading the word amongst our corporate partners and are now offering many co-op opportunities."  Drummond reports that ten students are involved in co-op at the time of publication, and that the program is always looking for more opportunities for students.

Earlier this summer, Professors Ann Rundell and Eric Nauman visited University of Galway in Ireland to explore a study abroad opportunity. This month, faculty from Galway will be visiting the Weldon School and finalizing details for a study abroad program that will be offered next school year.

Professor Rundell has also been leading the curriculum committee that made some slight adjustments to Senior Design capstone course. This school year, seniors have the choice of the previously typical one semester senior design or two semesters.

“A two-semester senior design option allows time for projects that may include tissue engineering, cell culture, or further development of a project. The senior class was really enthused when they were offered these new opportunities,” states Weldon Assistant Head, Andrew Brightman.

But opportunities aren’t just opening up for students. The school is always thinking of new ways to enlist the talents and expertise of Purdue Biomedical Engineering alumni and friends to further enrich the student experience.

Over the last year, the number of speakers in classrooms and seminars has increased to give students even more of the outside perspective. After a few successful Industry-sponsored Senior Design projects, the School will be seeking project Design ideas for next school year. Friends of the school can expect a formal request around the end of 2010.

“There are also giving opportunities for travel sponsorships for students preparing to attend Galway next year,” adds Brian Knoy, the Weldon School’s Director of Development, “and in today’s economic climate, economic support of top-notch students is becoming increasingly important.” To learn more about these and other giving opportunities, please contact Brian Knoy.  

If you would like to have a Weldon Co-Op at your organization, would like to speak to an undergraduate class, or have an idea for a senior design project please contact Maeve Drummond.

Professor Rickus and Collaborators Awarded Showalter Support
Professor Rickus is being recognized for her collaborative efforts in a project entitled, "Canine Glioma Cancer Stem Cells as a New Translational Cancer Model" by the Ralph W. & Grace M. Showalter Research Trust. Professor Rickus is co-PI with Professors R. Timothy Bentley of Veterinary Medicine, Kari L. Clase of Industrial Technology, and Jiri Adamec of Purdue's Bindley Bioscience Center.

Gliomas are common malignant brain tumors of both humans and dogs. The most aggressive form is Glioblastoma, and despite aggressive therapy this tumor is essentially terminal in every case. Attempts to identify improved treatments for glioblastomas have typically involved evaluating their effect in artificial models; however, this method has been fraught with difficulties and improved methods for predicting the best treatment in human patients are in critical need.

This multi-disciplinary team hopes to use spontaneously occurring gliomas in pet dogs to evaluate therapies. This project will allow the veterinary clinic to provide the latest therapies to individual patients, to provide clinicians and researchers a better understanding of glioma (both canine and human), and cell cultures which will be retained to test treatments prior to using them in canine and human patients.

This and other projects were chosen by the Showalter Selection Committee for support through a highly competitive selection process. Proposals for funding from the Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Research Trust are first reviewed by an internal selection committee [ISC] at Purdue. The ISC is appointed on an annual basis by the Associate Vice President for Research and is comprised of distinguished faculty representing individual academic units within the Purdue system. The ISC then selects the most meritorious pre-proposals for development of full proposals which are then forwarded to the Showalter Trustees. The Showalter Trustees make the final selection of projects to be funded.

Since 1975, Purdue has received research funding through grants made possible from the Ralph W. and Grace M. Showalter Research Trust Fund. The areas of research eligible for funding, as described by the benefactors, are:

  • Air and water pollution research
  • Research in the field of biochemistry
  • Research for the control and prevention of disease
  • Research for development of new technologies in food production
  • Research in medical and biophysical instrumentation, including the adaptation of the modern computer in the measurement of biological processes, in the collection, recording, analysis, and interpretation of data
Student Profile: Nnadozie (Dozie) Onunkwo
Graduate student, Nnadozie (Dozie) Onunkwo takes a few moments out of a busy day to share a little about himself.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Riverdale, Maryland, but my family is Nigerian.
Where and what did you study in Undergrad?
I attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a Meyerhoff Scholar, where I studied Computer Engineering.
Why did you choose a career in biomedical engineering?
As an undergrad, I was a typical computer engineering student, with no thoughts of entering the biological research world. However, following several technical summer internships, my interest in computer engineering began to fade. During these internships, I learned what it felt like to have no passion for your work. The pay was great, but the thought of programming in front of a computer 40+ hours/week wasn't appealing to me. However, I still wanted to apply my computer engineering skills to a new field.
When considering graduate schools, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Dawn Taylor at Case Western Reserve University about her work in neural engineering. Prior to this conversation, I'd never heard of the development of brain-controlled prosthetic devices for spinal cord injury patients. All I could think was, "That is the craziest research I've ever heard of! How do I get in on this?!" The potential to use my computer engineering skills to potentially help improve lives was very appealing. So I decided to enter the biomedical engineering Ph.D. program at Purdue in August 2006, focusing in neural engineering.
Please tell us about your research.
My research focuses on improving the biocompatibility of neuroprosthetic devices. Through motor prosthesis research, breakthroughs have been made to greatly improve the quality of life for those suffering from spinal cord injuries and other paralyzing neurological diseases, such as locked-in syndrome. By implanting intracortical microelectrodes (IMEs) into the motor cortex, scientists have been able to use neuronal recordings for control of a computer cursor or prosthetic limb in real time. Despite the theoretical promise of IMEs, a major impediment to the utility of these devices is their long-term functionality. Over time, there is a general degradation in the quality of recorded signals that is likely attributable to the reactive tissue response to initial IME insertion as well as to indwelling IMEs, which is characterized by neuronal cell death and scar formation. These responses lower a device's ability to record neuronal signals over time, thus, impeding the long-term use of cortical neuroprostheses to improve the lives of paralyzed individuals. Therefore, strategies must be developed to mitigate the negative effects of this reactive tissue response. 
In Dr. Kevin Otto's NeuroProstheses Research Lab, we are studying both electrical and chemical methods for mitigating the neuronal cell death and scar formation that occurs following chronic IME implantation. One potential strategy is to encourage the growth of neuronal processes toward indwelling IMEs via DC electric fields (DCEFs), which would decrease electrode-neuron distance and enhance the ability to record neural signals. Preliminary in vitro studies have been conducted to study the ability of DCEFs to induce directional growth of neuronal processes.
A second strategy to mitigating these negative effects is to reduce scar formation following a brain injury by down regulating the release of inflammatory cytokines, such as the interleukin family and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α). In vitro experiments modeled a brain injury by treating 7-10 day old cortical cultures with TNF-α. Results suggest our treatment may reduce cellular response by reducing inflammatory cytokine production, resulting in lowered impedance and more reliable long-term neuronal recordings. Future in vivo experiments will test both hypotheses.
What are your hobbies and interests?
One of my major hobbies is working out. In my opinion, it is one of the best ways to relieve stress that accumulates as a graduate student. It also helps to keep me healthy and full of energy throughout the day. I’ve also been a music producer since Summer 2006. It began as a hobby just to pass the time. However, once I started, I really fell in love with it. I currently collaborate with hip-hop and R&B artists at Purdue to create unique music. 
What do you think is your defining trait?
My defining trait is my discipline. As a teenager, I was not a very disciplined person. In high school, I was able to obtain good grades without significant effort. I was easily influenced by others and did things that I knew had no business doing. But when you are undisciplined with your life, you're bound to experience things that can change your life forever, and I was no different. Once these events occurred and I made it out unscathed, I told myself, "Dozie, this is your second chance. If you continue to be undisciplined with your life, you are finished!"
From that moment on, I vowed to be the most hard-working, disciplined person there is. When you're young, it is so easy to be taken off course. However, my life-changing events were a blessing in disguise. At age 19, I re-focused my efforts into excelling in classroom. Before considering any activity in college, I would make sure that my school work was completed and of the best quality. This approach allowed me to obtain my computer engineering degree in 4 years, when many people told me that it was impossible. This approach also gave me the confidence to enter a biomedical engineering Ph.D. program when my most recent biology course was in the 9th grade. Many people told me that I was crazy. But when you have the right mindset, you can accomplish anything, as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort.
Now, with my second graduation approaching, my next goal is to excel within any company that I am fortunate enough to work for. I truly feel that I can enter any work environment and be successful, no matter how difficult it may seem to others. My discipline is the trait that has carried me through graduate school, and will carry me through any future endeavor successfully. You might be able to get in the game without it, but you'll never make it to the Hall of Fame.
What are your goals after graduation?
After graduation, I'd like to pursue a career in healthcare consulting or product development with a medical device company. My experience with the Biomedship Program exposed me to many of the decisions that are made when developing, marketing, or improving a medical device. I believe the knowledge gained through that program, combined with the problem solving skills that were greatly improved through independent research, has prepared me for that career. Within 5-10 years, I'd like to start a company within the biotech industry and explore entrepreneurial ventures in Africa. Lastly, after retiring from a successful career as an entrepreneur, I'd like to become a professor and share all of my knowledge.
Tell us about your current involvement on Purdue's campus.
I'm currently involved with Purdue's Boiler Music Group. This organization provides a setting for musicians of all genres to collaborate on music and improve our craft. I provide artists with instrumentals, then assist with the recording and mixing of their songs.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Before deciding to come to Purdue, I really questioned whether it was the right place for me. Being from the Washington DC area, I was used to being in a big city, and was unsure about getting out of that comfort zone. But as my time at Purdue comes to a close, I know that attending Purdue was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The Biomedical Engineering Department and my advisor have taken care of me from the first day, and the resources at Purdue are outstanding. In the near future, I hope meet other Purdue alumni and friends to share our experiences and build relationships.
Thanks, Dozie. Best of luck to you in all of your future endeavors! We look forward to watching you and your career.


Save the Date!
There are many opportunities to be involved with the Weldon School this semester. Corporate Partners, friends, and alumni are all invited to attend. Here are just a few to mark on your calendars for fall semester.

Indiana State Fair - Purdue Day - August 13th

Be sure to stop by the Weldon School's tent at the State Fair this Friday. A full list of events can be found here.

Distance learning registration deadline - August 22nd

Earn your Masters of Science in Engineering - Interdisciplinary with a focus in Biomedical Engineering online. To learn more information, visit

Intern Poster Showcase -September 16th, 4:30 - 5:30pm, MJIS Atrium

Our interns and coops have returned from their summer industrial experiences and are ready to share their experiences.

Industrial Roundtable Weldon Open House Luncheons -September 14th and 15th, 11am-2pm, MJIS 2001

If you are coming to campus to recruit at IR, we would like to host you for an informal luncheon at your convenience. If you would like a chance to get out of the sun and share a meal with our students, email Julia Colby today. Please include the date of your visit and indicate if you would like a tour of the school.

Weldon BMES Reception - October 7th, 5:45pm, Austin, TX

Keeping an annual tradition, the Weldon School will be hosting a reception at the 2010 Biomedical Engineering Society Conference in Austin, Texas. If you are attending the conference, or are just in the area and would like to join fellow BME Boilers, please join us! We will be hosting prospective students as well, so it is a great opportunity to not only see old friends, but to share your experiences too. Please RSVP to Julia Colby before September 20th.

Weldon School Tailgate and Football game (vs. Wisconsin) - November 6th

In the spirit of the infamous goat roasts and likened to a "Weldon (nee Hillenbrand Center) Homecoming", the Weldon School hosts an annual barbeque tailgate for friends and alumni. Look for more information on this event later this fall.

Senior Design Presentations - Finals week TBA - (December 13-17th), MJIS 1001

Our students shine each end of term in their capstone project presentations. Feedback from our friends and alumni add another dimension to this defining moment in their undergraduate careers. Projects are expected to include: 

  • A cost effective preterm infant incubator
    • Project from Engineering World Health
  • Smart helmet for military soldiers
  • Bioelectrically controlled car
  • Tactile surface detector
  • Intraoral communication device
  • Environmentally adaptive hearing aid
  • Conductive heat therapy device to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy
  • Gamer opportunities for upper extremity amputees
    • Project suggested and mentored by Weldon alumni, Brian Kaluf ('08)
This is your newsletter! Please let us know of your accomplishments, as well as your ideas to help us improve the publication. As always, we welcome you to join us as we advance both higher education and the medical device and biotechnology fields. If you are interested in learning more about the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, please contact Julia Colby, our Manager of Development Operations, at We would like to learn about you, answer your questions, and schedule a visit.